7-Eleven tests delivery robot in South Korea
Global convenience store giant 7-Eleven has begun a test run of a robot delivery service in South Korea in conjunction with Neubility, a South Korean startup.
7-Eleven says that the test will run through October at two locations, one near Konkuk University in eastern Seoul and the other in southern Seoul. A total of eight robots, named Neubies, have been allocated for the job.
Neubility is, from what we understand, an independent company, but intricately linked to technology giant Samsung, a South-Korean and world-leading electronics company.
Grocery is just one area where Samsung sees great opportunities. Neubility is a startup founded in 2017. It has received $23 million in investment since inception, mostly from Samsung affiliates, including Samsung Electronics.
The "cars" of Neubility will work in two ways. The most obvious is that the robots will bring goods from a selection of 7-Eleven stores to homes and offices nearby.
In the test round, it will take place from one of the stores in southern Seoul. In the second variant, near Konkuk University, the robots will pick up goods from 10 nearby restaurants and shops for deliveries to the 7-Eleven store in the area – where customers pick up their orders. The standard fee for both types of deliveries is just under one US dollar.
The robots are equipped with a self-driving system and sensors, which enable them to avoid obstacles and navigate through urban environments in all weather. People are prompted automatically via mobile message to pick up their orders when the robot nears its destination.
Will become mainstream
"Technologically speaking, robotic delivery services are already possible. Before their commercial launch, however, there are many regulatory hurdles, which need to be dealt with," automotive Professor Kim Pil-Soo tells UPI News Korea. “When delivery robots can be in full-fledged operational mode is uncertain. Eventually, though, the service will become mainstream, even in the not-so-distant future," the professor believes.
“After the Covid-19 pandemic, the short-distance delivery service by convenience stores has become more important, raising hopes for the robot delivery service,” a Korea Seven official argues. The project is in line with the state-run Korea Institute for Robot Industry Advancement’s efforts to develop customized service robots.
World class supermarkets
According to many sources, South Korea is, technologically speaking, the most advanced grocery market in the world. This is not least due to the fact that Samsung and the state, in collaboration with the grocery players, have been a keen tech promoter.
Whether the experiment with delivery robots will be a success or not is too early to say, but it is beyond doubt that logistics are the biggest obstacle to effective home deliveries.
If it succeeds and is rolled out on a large scale, we can talk about the 2nd grocery revolution. The first was the development of the supermarkets in the sixties.
Many observers are sceptical, even downright negative.
"This is some damned nonsense," says one of our domestic grocery experts, Odd Gisholt, to NHH Food, about the Korean attempt.
In any case, may be that ODA (the Norwegian home delivery company), which is burning money at great speed and now has decided to withdraw from Finland and Germany, will study the South Korean experiment very carefully.
Like many others, Oda has had the bitter and inflated experience that today’s home delivery solutions are too expensive. Maybe robots can be the solution?
Then again, admittedly the demographics of Norway is somewhat different from the demographics of South Korea.
We wish our readers a happy summer! NHH Food is back in August.
Sources: UPI News Korea, Bizwire, 7-eleven Korea